Collage By Sarah Lutkenhaus
Dear Audrey, about six months ago, my wife cheated on me. We’ve been in therapy since to work through what happened. We’ve been together since college (we’re now in our 30s), and I figured something like this was bound to happen eventually, so I’m not even really that angry/hurt. That’s why it’s weird that, even though everything else is totally fine, our sex life is really not great. Whenever we try to have sex it’s awkward, and one of us gets upset about something or their feelings get hurt. We never had problems before this (as far as I know; in therapy she hasn’t mentioned bad sex as one of her reasons for cheating). How do we get back to where we were?
Sounds like Step 1 is to talk about it in therapy. Isn’t that what therapy is for? To work through issues in your relationship? I could do my shitty not-actually-a-therapist version of that and say, like, “Oh, it sounds like you are somehow funneling the hurt you’re not letting yourself feel fully into your sex life,” but why listen to me when you are paying someone with an actual degree to help you with that?
If you are 100 percent convinced that there’s no emotional stuff that needs working through and that this awkwardness is just the result of a long time away from each other or post-sex-with-another-person weirdness, then treat it how you would treat any awkwardness with a new sex partner.
Since you’ve been having sex with the same lady for 20 years, maybe you need a refresher. You almost certainly need to up your game. Like, I know your wife hasn’t mentioned being disappointed with sex in therapy, but even good married-forever sex is still married-forever sex. It’s initiated by saying, “Hey, want to have sex?” rather than any kind of actual seduction. She did, after all, have sex with another guy. Whatever it was “about,” it was also sex.
Go slowly and make it actually sexy in a way that someone you haven’t known most of your life would recognize. I don’t mean cheeseball shit like flowers or champagne or whatever; I mean nice touches, soft kisses—spending actual time inching your way toward sex instead of just stripping down and jumping into bed because you’ve agreed now is sex time so let’s just get started on the routine. Even if that routine routinely produces orgasms, it might be time to switch
But, speaking of champagne, if seduction is just not your style, maybe you could try being a little tipsy. Or a little high. Or on a little of whatever recreational substance you use, if you use one. I’m not saying get wasted, but alcohol is notoriously good at sanding down the awkward edges of human interaction. Why not use this to your advantage? Not in a creepy way but, you know, agree to get a little loose before the next time you go for it, and see if that helps.
Also, don’t be afraid to laugh. Sex is ridiculous! The human body is ridiculous! When you really think about it, the whole thing is just a goofy, weird, kind-of-disgusting farce. Sometimes I think people are so deadly serious about SEX that they forget how silly the whole thing is. Whatever else you do, laughing together is going to improve your relationship.
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If your wife cheated on you. Get rid of her. Once a cheater always a cheater.